Eq: Large Cap
One of the big questions in this market fall is why junk bonds aren’t tumbling in tandem with stocks. Generally speaking, high yield bonds trade in the same direction as small cap stocks as they are driven more by company fundamentals than other areas of the bond market. However, in the recent rout, this was not the case, as junk bonds have continued to perform well. When both markets fall in unison, it usually means there is big trouble brewing, but when they have become uncorrelated, it can mean there is a rally to come. For instance, in 2011, small caps fells strongly, but junk only a touch. In the following months, small caps surged 15%.
FINSUM: We think this is a positive sign for small caps, as high yield investors are not worried about company fundamentals.
One of the biggest mistakes that investors might make in this rising rate era is to try to combat rising rates with better yielding bonds. While that strategy can work, especially in short-term bonds with high yields (such as junk bonds), a better strategy is to buy dividend growth stocks. Historically speaking, dividend growth shares have performed well in periods of rising rates, outperforming yield stocks and the broader market. BMO Capital Markets recently put out a piece on the topic, saying that “We prefer to focus on stocks that combine dividend growth and yield characteristics”. Some stocks that meet dividend growth criteria are BlackRock, Bank of America, Union Pacific, and Delta Airlines.
FINSUM: Dividend growth stocks tend to have good capital appreciation during periods of rising rates, which makes them seem like a good bet for this tightening cycle.
Want to maintain your portfolio’s income, but also afraid of rising rates? Many are, as it is a difficult challenge keep income high but not experience losses. With that in mind, here are a handful of mutual funds which should help do just that. One area to look for diversified income right now is in multi-asset income funds. Some of the best are the American Funds Income Fund of America (AMECX), the Vanguard Wellesley Income (VWINX), the BlackRock Multi-Asset Income (BAICX), the JPMorgan Income Builder (JNBAX), and the Principal Global Diversified Income (PGBAX).
FINSUM: Many of these funds are quite old and have had great performance. Fees are all over the map, but one of the areas where they tend to succeed is in having good performance with lower volatility than the market as a whole.
By now one would have expected junk bonds to have experienced a large selloff. The sector already had a low spread to Treasuries, has mountains of fringe credits, and has been facing a period of rising rates. Yet, high yield has been performing very well, with the weakest credits, paradoxically, performing best. There has been no sustained flight out of the sector, and spreads are higher than at the start of the month, but still not even where they were for much of the year.
FINSUM: The big risk here is that investors aren’t being paid enough for the risks they are taking. The whole junk sector, not to mention the loads of BBB credits that are technically investment grade, are very susceptible to recession and higher rates. At some point there are going to be some major losses.
Junk bonds have had a rough monthly, and it is not hard to see why. The rise in yields and the anxiety about stocks have combined to push yields on junk steeply higher, from 6.18% on October 1st to 6.61% now. In aggregate, the bonds are down 1%+ this month. However, the truth is that the losses could have been much worse, and within that idea, is an important story. That story is that ETFs, which have offered much greater ease of access to investors, actually seemed to have supported prices in the recent turmoil. The head of bond trading at Oppenheimer put it best, saying “The ETF market, which was supposed to subtract liquidity from credit markets, is actually adding liquidity by aggregating the risk and bringing in people who want to take macro risk as opposed to micro bond level risk … The ETF market ends up providing the live bid-ask spread that even the credit markets themselves cannot generate”.
FINSUM: This is a fascinating argument as it runs counter to the long-running narrative about how fixed income ETFs could cause a big blow up because of a “liquidity mismatch” between ETFs and the underlying asset.
If you are looking for the canary in the coal mine for the current market turbulence, look no further than a handful of stocks that should show investors where things are headed. Especially for the Dow. The index’s gains this year have largely come from three stocks: Apple, Boeing, and UnitedHealth Group. 16 stocks in the 30-stock index have losses this year, but because of the quirky way the Dow is calculated, some smaller market capitalization companies have much more weight than larger ones (weighting is done by share price not market cap). Accordingly, this trio has outsized importance to the index, and if they fall, the Dow is likely to get badly hurt.
FINSUM: The Dow is quite funky, but this story points out just how vulnerable the whole index looks right now.